MANHATTAN (CN) – An art broker claims antique dealers tricked him into paying more than $20 million for bogus antiques and paintings – including phony paintings supposedly by Manet, Renoir and Monet – and stole $10 million worth of valuables from his office.
In his complaint in New York County Court, Alexander Komolov claims defendants David Segal and Mohamed Serry “were actively pursuing Komolov to utilize his reputation and connections among the buyers of art worldwide.”
Komolov also sued Segal and Serry’s shell companies Artique Multinational, Artique International and Segal & Segal Holding.
Komolov filed a similar complaint against Segal, Serry and several companies in November 2010.
According to the new complaint, Segal and Serry, who shared an office with Komolov, “represented to plaintiff that they had access to genuine and authentic paintings and antiques acquired through private and estate sales and auctions.”
Komolov says that in the autumn of 2009 he paid $15 million for two oil paintings the defendants passed off as a genuine Manet and a Renoir.
He claims that Segal and Serry assured him that “The House of the Artist,” supposedly by Edouard Manet, and “Girl in the Garden,” attributed to Pierre-Augustine Renoir, were “original, genuine and authentic works by the respective artists.”
(Renoir’s original “Young Girl in the Garden at Mezy” and Manet’s “The House at Rueil” were painted in the late 19th century. “The House at Rueil” is displayed at the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia.)
Komolov claims that “in order to entice Komolov to purchase the paintings, Segal and Serry produced the paintings and the certificates of authenticity, both dated September 1998 (‘certificates’), which were purportedly signed by Mr. Eduard Sebline from the Wildenstein Institute in Paris, a world-renowned art research center.”
But an expert in Impressionist art told him the certificates were forged and the paintings not authentic, Komolov says.
He claims Segal and Serry had the signature and letterhead of a New York gallery forged, and used a forged certificate of authenticity to sell him what they called a Monet, for more than $4 million.
“The fraud was discovered when Komolov was reviewing the Christies’ auction house November 2007 catalog, where the painting was identified as the artwork of another artist,” the complaint states.
“Upon information and belief, this painting was the work of Ferdinand du Puigaudeau and was purchased by Serry from Sotheby’s in November of 2007 for $51,400.”
Komolov adds: “On or about March 2011, Komolov learned from Mr. Selvyn Paz, a former personal assistant to Serry, who swore in his affidavit that documents, such as certificates of authenticity, were prepared and concocted ‘in-house’ by Segal and Serry on a regular basis.”
Komolov says he paid Segal and Serry another $1.5 million for fake Russian antiques, through Komolov’s company High Value Trading, a co-plaintiff.
And after discovering that the paintings and antiques were fake, Segal and Serry refused to return his money, Komolov says.
To top it all, Komolov says, in March 2010, Segal and Serry took several valuable items from his office, including a sapphire ring, an emerald necklace, and two genuine paintings, by Picasso and Maurice Vlaminck, worth close to $10 million.
And he says Segal and Serry bought a condominium from his other co-plaintiff company, Alskom Realty, but failed to pay the balance of $4,059,000 due at closing.
Komolov seeks damages for unjust enrichment, conversion, fraud and breach of contract and declaratory judgment to void the sale of the condo.
He is represented by Roman Popik.